61 Tsalaki Trail, Helen, GA 30545 – Get Directions
Smithgall Woods is an angler’s paradise. One of north Georgia’s premier trout streams, Dukes Creek, runs through this spectacular mountain property and is a favorite for catch-and-release fishing. To ensure a quality experience, the number of anglers is limited and fishing is offered only on certain days. As a result, an...
Smithgall Woods is a gorgeous 5,600+ acre park, granted to Georgia in 1994 as a gift-purchase from Charles Smithgall Jr. Dukes Creek/Dover Creek runs through this prime mountain property, with award-winning trout; it is a favorite for catch-and-release fishing. The mammoth forest trees, boulder and moss-lined creek, and diverse flora and fauna make this state park a (lesser known) gem in the Georgia mountains. Walking the trails of Smithgall, I felt as if I were in a fairyland of wonder and beauty. It has become one of my favorite places in Georgia for peaceful connection with Mother Nature.
Enjoy five miles of hiking trails and 20+ miles of hiking/biking roadways. We hiked the 2-mile round trip from the cottages to Dukes Creek Waterfall. If you are not staying at the cottages, hikers can gain access to the waterfall from Richard Russell Scenic Highway. Hiking trails are available in varying degrees of difficulty; the visitor center loop is an easy and short hike, while the Ash Creek Trail is more strenuous and includes a river forging. Four trails require a walk from the visitor center to the trailhead, ranging from .6 miles to 2.8 miles. Tack this distance onto the total trail distance.
While hiking, visitors can also picnic, GeoCache, or enjoy guided tours. Wildlife is plentiful in this area, so bring binoculars and/or a camera. Our favorite part of the hike was watching and listening to the water. The boys loved throwing rocks into the creek and watching for fish. I recommend calling before you head out, as the trails are closed during scheduled hunts.
FISHING and HUNTING
Catch-and-release trout fishing is available several days a week (every day for cottage guests.) See the website for the current hunting schedule. Hunts include deer, bear, turkey, and small game. Two years ago one hunter shot a 500+ pound black bear with a cross bow! You can see photos in the visitor center.
Guests can visit the Discovery Room in the visitor center, with stuffed bears, beavers, falcons and eagles, and more. There is also a history diorama about the park.
A number of events are scheduled in the park each month such as the First Visit Tour, Friends Friday, All About Black Bears, GPS Basics, Tree Identification, and more. There is also an onsite Educational Center with multiple programs for all ages (for schools and homeschool groups.) Fees are minimal. Programs include such topics as Birds and Worms, Beavers, Snakes, Compass Basics, Archery, Fishing, the Gold Rush, and much more.
Smithgall Woods is three miles from the city of Helen (with shops, restauants, a grocery, and more.) It is also within a short distance of Unicoi State Park and Babyland General Hospital.
There is the standard $5 cost to park at the state park, but hiking, fishing, and hunting are free.
Smithgall is a gorgeous park with lush forests, rushing water, beautiful boulders covered in moss, and easy access to a striking waterfall. I urge families to make their way to Helen for this breathtaking state park, and to stay in the cottages if possible (see my cottage review, too.) Georgia has truly been blessed with this gift from Mr. Smithgall.
Disclosure: Thank you to Georgia State Parks and Smithgall Woods State Park for hosting my family and me. While I am appreciative of their hospitality, the opinions here are my own.